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Fund Times: Eveillard Commits to Five Years at First Eagle

Plus, the SEC plans a more investor-friendly Web site, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 05/14/2007

Shareholders of several First Eagle funds received good news May 7. After the sudden resignation in March of Charles de Vaulx as manager of  First Eagle Global SGENX,  First Eagle Overseas SGOVX,  First Eagle U.S. Value FEVAX, and  First Eagle Gold SGGDX, Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder Advisers rehired previous manager Jean-Marie Eveillard to lead the funds and work on a multiyear succession plan. He previously managed all of these funds for several years, delivering strong results for shareholders, and we long viewed him as one of the top value-oriented international fund managers.

Until last week's announcement, the length of Eveillard's commitment was unclear, but we now know that he'll be aboard for at least five years. For the first two years, he will be the lead manager involved in all day-to-day aspects of fund management, and he'll also help further develop the advisor's analyst team. For another three years thereafter, he will remain in a part-time consulting role.

Charles Edouard "Chuck" de Lardemelle will join Eveillard as a new associate portfolio manager on the Global, Overseas, and U.S. Value funds. A veteran of the firm since 1996, he and Eveillard worked together in the years preceding Eveillard's initial retirement in 2004.

SEC Chairman Speaks Plain English
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox revealed some of his organization's future plans for the mutual fund industry at a recent speech to the Investment Company Institute (ICI). One SEC priority will be to make information both more easily accessible and easier to understand. For easier access, Cox gave a demonstration of the SEC's planned upgrades to its Edgar Web site, where the government posts fund company disclosures such as prospectuses, manager changes, and more. The upgrade will likely involve the use of a new XBRL format--a way to standardize fund company data reporting--that will allow investors' an easier way to do fund-to-fund comparisons for information such as expenses or various return measures.

A second area of focus will be disclosure improvement. That includes working with the ICI on a more streamlined prospectus format and possibly requiring fund companies to make all shareholder documents available for electronic delivery. Cox also wants the SEC to improve disclosure in 401(k) defined-contribution plans. Fee structures vary depending on the 401(k) provider, so the SEC plans to partner with the Department of Labor to both cover all types of plans and reduce the legal jargon facing investors in 401(k) documents. In other words, he wants to put fees investors might pay into easy-to-spot, plain English.PAGEBREAK

Tweedy, Browne Reopens Domestic Fund
Tweedy, Browne Value
TWEBX will reopen to new investors May 15. The fund closed in May 2005 due to the advisor's concern that new cash might dilute existing shareholder returns. A revised mandate now allows this mid-cap value offering to invest up to 20% of assets in foreign stocks and allows it to own a wider selection of stocks (as measured by market capitalization range). Tweedy, Browne's management team believes it will be able to invest new inflows effectively, though longtime comanager Will Browne notes that the firm will not hesitate to close the fund again should it receive excessive inflows.

William Blair Launches New Fixed-Income Fund
William Blair Bond Fund
became available to investors May 1 as the firm's second fixed-income offering. The Bond Fund will be the firm's first intermediate-term bond offering, with an investment-grade mandate allowing no more than 10% of assets in high-yield securities. James Kaplan, Christopher Vincent, and Benjamin Armstrong will manage the fund, with the former two staying on as comanagers of William Blair Income WBRRX. As a team, they have managed that short-term fund for nearly five years, delivering above-average returns in that time.

RS Approves Merger of Two Tech Funds
RS Internet Age
RIAFX and RS Information Age RSIFX will soon be one. RS's Board of Trustees approved the merger of Internet Age into Information Age pending shareholder approval. Both funds compete in the specialty-technology category and hold less than $100 million in assets, though Internet Age was slightly more expensive. Even so, Information Age's newest shareholders will still pay up: The fund charges a lofty 1.62% expense ratio.

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